Could RAEES (2016) Be Shah Rukh Khan’s Return To Serious Cinema?
While people are anxiously anticipating the collections from Salman Khan’s currently released ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘ this Eid 2015, another movie that is set to release in exactly a year, has created some buzz. Shah Rukh Khan’s long awaited film ‘Raees’ releases its first look posters, as well as a teaser. Shah Rukh Khan, affectionately known as King Khan in the Bollywood industry due to his massive successes, has had his fair share of detractors that criticize his choice of safe and commercially appealing films. Choosing to work exclusively with financially successful hit-making directors like Farah Khan and Rohit Shetty (among a few), Shah Rukh Khan’s films usually feature almost everything that the Bollywood audience want in their movies; escapism, entertainment, action, and melodious song and dance. Khan’s critics feel that his inherent talent is being squandered in commercially fluff films, however, ‘Raees’ might definitely turn heads and change minds.
Set in 1980’s Gujurat, ‘Raees’ features the story of a bootlegger rising to fame during prohibition within the state, a turbulent time, and how his business comes under threat by a Police Officer. Shah Rukh Khan essays the titular role of a man operating an alcohol business during these times. The look of the trailer, as evident by the title card at the end, is very much of a film that is a period piece that almost pays tribute to the 80’s Bollywood films. It should be interesting to see how immersed the film gets within this era, as there is much meta source material to draw from. The movie is set to deal with a variety of social issues from the religious tension that’s always been present in Gujarat between Hindus and Muslims, (something that the narration in the Trailer vaguely references) as well legal prohibition and other socially impactful restrictions like prostitution and drugs. Not many Bollywood films have openly death with these topics, and with a major star as Khan in the film, it should be interesting to see how graphic the subject material can actually get.
‘Raees‘ also stars Farhan Akthar (‘Dil Dhadakne Do‘), who previously directed Khan in films like ‘Don’ & ‘Don 2’, (My full Review here) but has never acted alongside the superstar. While Akhtar’s role hasn’t been specified, it’s safe to assume he will play the cop opposing Khan’s character. Akhtar is also producing the film with long time producing partner Ritesh Sidwani, as well as Shah Rukh Khan’s own banner of Red Chilies Entertainment. Akhtar’s productions in which he also stars usually happen to be quite successful, (‘Lakshya’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara‘) so ‘Raees’ is set to be an interesting movie, if nothing else. The film also stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui (‘The Lunchbox‘) in a pivotal role, and also marks the Bollywood acting debut of Pakistani actress Mahira Khan.
Directed by Rahul Dholakia of ‘Parzania‘ fame, ‘Raees’ marks Shah Rukh Khan’s return to gritty and serious cinema, barring any large musical numbers or traditional love story angles. Known for his financially entertaining formula flicks, Khan in recent times has rarely done films with a more dramatic tone, circling themes of greater importance than box office success. From the teaser, ‘Raees‘ seems to be a more grounded film that Dholakia has been associated with in his short career. Having already dealt with similar issues of religion in his film ‘Parzania‘, Dholakia has a very good handle on tackling serious subject matter, while telling a story in an engaging manner. It will be most intriguing seeing Khan in a role that is less universally appealing, but should definitely be the first step in redeeming him towards his detractors.
‘Raees’ releases on July 3rd, 2016. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Farhan Akhtar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui & Mahira Khan; directed by Rahul Dholakia.